Ron English’s Pop Culture Guernica Interpretations

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Artist Ron English is best known for his bright and playful pop culture aesthetic, and a blending of high and low art cultures, something he refers to as “popaganda.” A multitude of characters and references populate his works, and it’s this accessibility that lends his work its effectiveness. One particular painting – Picasso’s Guernica – represents a modern template for English that he has interpreted over 50 times, and English approaches each interpretation aware and reverent of the original’s cultural significance.

English writes, “[Guernica] is a visual shorthand for the overwhelming and gratuitous horror of modern war. But I argue that the cultural takeaway of Guernica is actually the opposite. It transforms incomprehensible tragedy into a cartoon narrative, something we can more easily absorb. This is part of the human process, to distance ourselves from the immediacy of undiluted, overwhelming emotions by overlaying a narrative that simplifies, and in effect, takes us down from three to two dimensions. And this is the underlying concept that I grapple with in all my many versions of Guernica.”

English’s approach to the Guernica template resonates throughout much of his work; the artist often interprets our visually-saturated cultures, recontextualixing familiar imagery in order to critique or present ideas that can be more easily absorbed. In order to capture particular lighting and angles, English constructs 3D models of some his concepts before painting them. While each interpretation is unique in its imagery, English admits he’s “…always riffing on the same basic message — that cultural bias is embedded in our narrative. [His] Guernicas call attention to the product placement of global corporate culture, using war as entertainment and entertainment as war.” (via huffington post)

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Détournement: Signs of the Times, a Group Show at Jonathan LeVine

 

Last night,  Jonathan Levine Gallery in Chelsea, NYC opened a group show entitled Détournement : Signs of the Times. The show includes works from some big names including Ron English, Shepard Fairey, Jamie Reid, Steve Powers, and Aiko Nakagawa. “Détournement” refers to the practice of altering the face of public signage to change their respective meanings. From curator Carlo McCormick (editor of PAPER magazine):

Employed brilliantly by the Situationists, whose great philosopher Guy Debord laid out the socio-aesthetic framework for this practice, détournements twist the terms of mimicry in ironic parody using the a semblance of the easily recognizable to dissemble and redirect the literal meaning of signs so as to construe a more honest picture of their deceptive intentions.

A natural response to the lies and coercions we are fed on a daily basis, the détournement has been the reactive impulse of all those who question reality, from the Punks who adopted it in the 1970s through Culture Jammers, Adbusters, contemporary street artists and the winding legacy of protest movements from WTO to Occupy.

More images of works in the show after the jump. Read More >

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